One of the easiest ways to cut some of the fat and calories in your macaroni and cheese is to replace any of the cream or whole milk in the cheese sauce recipe with skim milk. You can also replace some of the butter with olive oil for a healthier type of fat.
Hard cheeses like Parmesan typically have fewer calories than softer varieties like Cheddar or mozzarella. If your recipe doesn’t call for any hard cheeses, try cutting back on the amount of soft cheeses and toss in a healthy handful of grated Parmesan instead. As an added bonus, you’ll get lots of deep, salty flavor.
If your recipe calls for fattening ingredients like bacon, try swapping them for healthier options. You won’t miss bacon at all if you add a pinch of smoky cumin or paprika to the cheese sauce. Fresh or dried herbs also add a ton of delicious flavor to the cheese sauce, limiting the need for excess cheese, butter, or cream.
Try combining the homemade cheese sauce with puréed butternut squash or carrots. Aside from cutting back on the fat and calories, both vegetables will add a subtle sweetness to the dish without sacrificing the creaminess of the cheese sauce.
Swapping some or all of the pasta in your macaroni and cheese for a whole-wheat variety can be a great way to eat more whole grains. Just be sure whole-wheat flour is listed as the first ingredient on your pasta package.
Although we don’t condone replacing all the pasta with vegetables (because then it’s not really macaroni and cheese, is it?), adding some vegetables for flavor can be a good way to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating. Grilled corn, fire-roasted tomatoes, and small florets of roasted cauliflower are all great choices.
Many baked macaroni and cheese casseroles call for a buttery crumb topping. You can cut a lot of fat by replacing the topping with a sprinkle of crunchy, lightly toasted Panko breadcrumbs.
If you add some spices or herbs to your macaroni and cheese, the odds are good that no one will even miss the breadcrumb topping. That will cut fat, calories, and carbohydrates!